Hebrew Voices #22 – A Physicist on Creation, Evolution, and the Human Soul (Rebroadcast)

A-Physicist-on-Creation-Evolution-and-the-Human-Soul-300pxIn this episode of Hebrew Voices, A Physicist on Creation, Evolution, and the Human Soul, Nehemia Gordon continues a conversation with orthodox Jewish physicist Dr. Gerald Schroeder. Because modern Bible commentators tend to bend the Bible to match science, Schroeder studied Nachmanides which led him to see no discrepancy between six days of creation ad 14 billion years of evolution. While religious minds grapple with the concept of time compression, Schroeder claims it is elementary stuff to physicists—and all a matter of perspective.

While asserting his belief that life on earth developed from the simple to the complex, Schroeder states his objections to modern evolutionary theory which is based on random mutations—a theory that he considers flawed as well as theological—and therefore one that should be banned from schools. Lastly, Schroeder shares his views on soulless, human-like creatures who lived before God breathed life into “the Adam.”

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Transcript

Hebrew Voices #22 - A Physicist on Creation, Evolution, and the Human Soul

You are listening to Hebrew Voices with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Announcer: Le ma’an Zion lo ekhesheh, u’l’ma’an Yerushalayim lo eshkot. (For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest. Isaiah 62:1)

Nehemia: Shalom, this is Nehemia Gordon. I’m back here with Hebrew Voices, and I am sitting here in Jerusalem with Dr. Gerald Schroeder. He’s an Orthodox Jew, he has a PhD from MIT, he’s taught at some of the top institutions in Israel, science institutions, Weitzman Institute, Hebrew University. He’s seen nuclear explosions!

Gerald: Quite a few.

Nehemia: He’s literally a nuclear physicist. Now he teaches at the College of Jewish Studies in the Old City, what’s also called Aish HaTorah. His first book was called Science and the Big Bang, he’s written a bunch of other books that we’re going to have links to on the website, The Science of God, The Hidden Face of God, God According to God. But today, we’re going to try to focus as much as possible on this topic of God and…

Gerald: Genesis.

Nehemia: Genesis and the Big Bang. You were telling me just before we started about a conflict that people have when it comes to faith and science. Tell me about that.

Gerald: Not everyone. As they say, different strokes for different folks. But I’ve met so many people, literally thousands, not ones, or tens, more than a thousand, who say they’d like to believe the Bible has some aspect of real divinity to it, as opposed to it being just a wonderful story. There’s a God. But what about the Bible? How can it be that Genesis chapter 1 tells us in six days God creates the universe, that’s the first sentence, and by the time they get to verse 27, which is already 5.5 or 6 days later, you’ve got humans, Adam, and by verse 31 the chapter’s finished. From the creation of the universe up to humanity you’ve got 30 sentences and 6 days, because it’s broken up into 6-day units.

How can it be 6 days, when science says quite clearly, the data gets stronger and stronger, approximately 14 billion years old? How can it be 14 billion years, and the Bible says 6 days?

Nehemia: So for many people, that’s an obstacle to their faith in the Torah, in the Bible.

Gerald: It’s a firewall.

Nehemia: Okay. And a lot of the people listening to this program, certainly my tendency is to be a literal six-day believer in creation. A lot of the people listening are Young Earth Creationists. You’re not a Young Earth Creationist. Let’s put that out there - am I right? Was it six 24-hour days?

Gerald: You see, Nehemia? You’ve got a problem here. The problem is that…

Nehemia: He’s a physicist so the answer is both. [laughing]

Gerald: Yes! The answer is both literally…

Nehemia: Is it six 24-hour days or billions of years? Yes. [laughing]

Gerald: Yes, yes, yes.

Nehemia: Okay, so tell us how that can be.

Gerald: Much of this… I put the numbers in. I was the lucky guy that put the numbers in. But I want to make it clear…

Nehemia: Are you saying that before you, people hadn’t done this? People hadn’t figured…?

Gerald: No. This is new.

Nehemia: This is your discovery.

Gerald: I’m the first one to put these numbers through it. But I was led to it by a commentator in about the year 1200 called Nachman, and he’s with an N, Nachmanides. Then the earlier statements, there were early ones, Rav Tanhuma, about 1,800 years ago. I only use ancient Biblical commentaries. When it comes to the science; modern science. But as far as understanding the Bible, no modern Biblical commentary, because all modern commentators are bending the Bible to match the science.

Nehemia: So you’re saying these traditional Jewish commentaries led you to this idea that the world is both billions of years old and six days old, around 6,000 years old at the same time?

Gerald: Yes. Not “led me”, they made it.

Nehemia: The creation was six days.

Gerald: Yes, it would be useful if the people listening can quickly pull out a copy of Genesis 1. If you don’t have a bible…

Nehemia: You must do that. Stop what you’re doing on the treadmill, stop what you’re doing on your bicycle, and go pull out Genesis 1 and read it. That’s your homework. Go on.

Gerald: Get it on your iPhone, or however you want to do it. So first of all, we see Genesis chapter 1 is broken into six days. The first sentence, “God creates the heavens and the earth.” Watch out for English translation. We’ll do that maybe at another time. I don’t want to get off the track.

Nehemia: So you’re saying there’s stuff in the Hebrew that’s lost in the English, is that it?

Gerald: It doesn’t even match the English at all.

Nehemia: So that’s the first problem.

Gerald: I look back in time, and I see from my perspective here on earth, 14 billion years’ worth of history. And those years went by. But how would they be perceived? Here is the key operational word.

Nehemia: Everybody listen – here’s the key.

Gerald: How would they be perceived from the Bible’s perspective of the beginning, looking forward? I have to run all that information – and it’s totally a thought experiment – back in time to the beginning of the Biblical clock, which we know is on day number one, because that’s why it says, “day one”. That was the whole point of the day one…

When I run anything back in time, as we saw from the galaxy experiment, time is compressed to a different perspective. And that’s why the change in the calendar starts with Adam forward. Once you get years talked about again in chapter 5, it’s the first time that time is mentioned after the six days and then the Sabbath. Adam and Eve live 130 years, and have a kid named Seth. Seth lives 105 years, and has a kid named Enosh, it’s chapter five. Where did they live, in outer space? They lived on earth. From Adam forward it’s earth time.

But what about the six days?

Nehemia: This is the key. You’re saying those first six days aren’t earth time?

Gerald: From the Bible’s perspective, it’s the Bible time. The mistake I make in Genesis and the Big Bang and the science guys say, “from God’s perspective”. We don’t know God’s perspective. We know the Bible’s perspective. God gives us information in the Bible. I’ve got a good feeling that God’s knowledge exceeds the Bible. But that’s what we get.

Nehemia: From the Bible’s perspective it was six days. But if you were out in space…

Gerald: Six 24-hour days.

Nehemia: If you were out in space it was 14 billion years, or something like that.

Gerald: In reality, as we see it, imagine it was billions of years, the dinosaurs appear about 210 or 220 million years ago, and they disappear 65 million years ago, from a force from outer space. Cavemen, etc. Now, just because they’re made… All of this is on my website, by the way. It’s in The Science of God.

Nehemia: And your book, The Science of God and Genesis and the Big Bang.

Gerald: Yeah, but that’s…

Nehemia: What’s your website? You said it’s on your website?

Gerald: Geraldschroeder.com.

Nehemia: Geraldschroeder.com. We’ll have that link on nehemiaswall.com.

Gerald: You go there, there’s one essay called The Age of the Universe. In five pages, about 20 minutes of reading, you get to hear me blabbing away for an hour, blah, blah, blah, here.

So now we have a view of time looking from the beginning, looking forward. But we don’t know exactly what moment or what the universe is like at its creation. And so brilliantly, it just boggles the imagination. We are told by the commentators that are telling us that it’s that view of time, that when matter forms, M-A-T-T-E-R, when matter forms, time grabs a hold. Now that’s very interesting. The first creation wasn’t…

Nehemia: You’re saying somebody wrote this 800 years ago, or 1,000 years ago?

Gerald: Yeah, Nachmanides.

Nehemia: Isn’t that related somehow to…

Gerald: Energy?

Nehemia: The theory of relativity?

Gerald: Absolutely. I’m just saying…

Nehemia: So that’s something Einstein discovered, but it was known, you’re saying, or believed, 800 years ago?

Gerald: I’m just saying we now know that radiant energy, like light beams or heat coming off the wall or anything, or the beams that carry your telephone, they’re outside of time. They pass, by definition, at the speed of light they travel. At the speed of light, time doesn’t exist.

It’s only when stable matter forms – I’m not reading this in – “mi sheyesh yefos bo zman.” “When you have yesh, stable matter, time grabs a hold.” And that turns out to be - I could pull the text right off the shelf like the first three minutes - that turns out to be the first stable matter that makes the elements of the universe - are protons. Hydrogen is one proton. Helium is two protons.

Nehemia: So from the time there were protons, there was time, is what you’re saying, according to Jewish scholars 1,000 years ago?

Gerald: No, time is going by, but nothing’s recording the time because time can go by but nothing’s recording it because there’s no stable matter. Only matter gets older. Light waves don’t get older. Look - you can’t get everything in one sentence, one 15 minutes.

So what do I have here? I see the energy level or temperatures exactly the same, two different words for the same thing, that is required for the protons to form. I don’t know – I’m a nuclear physicist, I would know that, but I used my numbers. It’s called the “threshold energy of protons”. That’s a certain energy level. The easiest way of talking about it is temperature. It’s a certain temperature, temperature’s energy.

And I know the temperature of space today, not the temperature of the sun. The universe is very cold. It’s three degrees above absolute zero. In Centigrade, it’s minus 270. In Fahrenheit, it’s minus 450.

Nehemia: That’s the universe deep in space.

Gerald: That’s the black of space, not direct sunlight.

Nehemia: That’s really cold.

Gerald: If I take the ratio of the temperature of space today, this minus 450, it’s called the famous “three degrees of absolute zero”, at minus 450. People are thinking, “450 Fahrenheit primarily or Centigrade, what…?”

Nehemia: At these temperatures, nobody has any idea what you’re talking about. [laughing]

Gerald: No, no. If I take that ratio how cold it is today, versus the temperature at which protons and neutrons form, I have a ratio of how much space has stretched. That ratio, Nehemia, is 900 billion. That is to say, the universe is now 900 billion times larger stretched out, than when the…

Nehemia: And why is that significant for this discussion?

Gerald: Because that tells…

Nehemia: What does it lead us to?

Gerald: That means when I look back and see 14 billion years, if I want to go back to the Bible’s perspective, I have to go back to the time when the universe was 900 billion times smaller. Time and the perception, the perception of time was compressed by 900 billion.

Nehemia: So you’re saying the 14 billion years of the universe would have been perceived as 6 days, is that… six 24-hours days?

Gerald: No. 14 billion years of the universe would have been perceived by 14 billion years divided by 900 billion.

Nehemia: Which is six days?

Gerald: Five-and-a-half days.

Nehemia: Okay.

Gerald: No, don’t say okay. It’s pretty bloody phenomenal!

Nehemia: It is, but I’m not sure I understand it. Tell me in plain English one more time. Because the universe is 900 billion times bigger than it was to begin with, therefore…

Gerald: From the beginning of the clock. And the Biblical perception or perspective of time for those first six days is from the beginning looking forward. I can’t use my perception of time, my perspective.

Nehemia: Okay. So our perception of time today is that it was 14 billion years, but from the moment the universe was created, it would have been looked at forward as 5.5 or 6 days, 24-hour days? You’re saying it’s not based on some doctrine or belief, but based on math, right?

Gerald: Totally.

Nehemia: Which you’re not going to explain now, because it’s way too complicated, I’m sure.

Gerald: No, it’s five simple pages. Go to geraldschroeder.com, The Age of the Universe. It’s an essay there, The Age of the Universe.

Nehemia: Okay. And there you have the mathematics for those who know math, they can confirm this.

Gerald: It’s a division! 14 billion years divided by 900 billion. The zeros all drop out, and you’ve got 14 years divided by 900.

Nehemia: It comes out to about five-and-a-half or six days.

Gerald: No. The irony is, the embarrassment is, it comes to be five-and-a-half days, because when does the Biblical clock begin? When Adam is created.

Nehemia: Which is in the middle of sixth day.

Gerald: Yeah, which comes out to be five-and-a-half days. I want to make it clear. They put this book on Amazon’s best seller list…

Nehemia: The Science of God, yeah.

Gerald: It was on the best-seller list for the entire year, in the field of science. I’m not bragging now, I want to make it very clear, but I’ll make it clear that this is not just some honky-tonk science Bible-thumping thing. This is reality. In the field of science, it was the largest selling book worldwide, for an entire year.

Nehemia: So basically, what you’ve described here…

Gerald: Which means Brian Greene, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, all the famous names you know. And then little Schroeder with…

Nehemia: The Science of God.

Gerald: The Science of God, the largest selling science book.

Nehemia: We’ll have a link to that on the website, nehemiaswall.com.

Gerald: I’m not selling books, but I want to make it clear.

Nehemia: I want people to go read your book, because what we’re offering them here is the tip of the iceberg. And I always tell people when I try to convince them to buy my book, it’s not because I want to sell the book, it’s because I want them to get more information. If I’m going to do it teaching - I sometimes have been known to speak for like 10 hours - but still, that’s nothing compared to what’s in the book. Certainly, for your four books, we could sit here for three weeks and not get to everything. We’re not going to do that.

But I do appreciate you explaining this. This was some really complicated stuff. People, take a deep breath, stop on the treadmill and go to his website, geraldschroeder.com, and read these books, and get some more information. There are some videos there, as well, 50 videos.

Gerald: I’ve never put any videos up, but people…

Nehemia: But people video you… okay.

Gerald: But I want to make it clear, this is by Free Press of Simon & Schuster. It’s not a science publishing company, it’s reader friendly.

Nehemia: Okay. Excellent. Now, this idea of the perception of time - I’m going to ask this because I grew up watching Carl Sagan and Cosmos, where he talked about billions and billions of stars…

Gerald: Which is why I wrote my first book.

Nehemia: Oh, really?

Gerald: That’s exactly why I wrote my first book.

Nehemia: It’s really interesting, my father was an Orthodox rabbi, and he never watched television except for football games. But we sat around, the entire family, watching Cosmos together, back in the ‘70s, and so it really left an impression on me.

Gerald: If he’d only known, Carl Sagan… My first rabbi, the following was what my first Rabbi told me, Herman Pollack, of blessed memory. I remember, so I’m going back many decades, he married Carl Sagan to his first wife, Lynn Margulis.

Nehemia: Was Carl Sagan Jewish?

Gerald: Of course!

Nehemia: I had no idea.

Gerald: Are you serious?

Nehemia: I didn’t know that.

Gerald: Of course he was. But he didn’t know anything. What Rabbi Pollack said, “All he knew was that he was Jewish.” He didn’t know any traditions, but he still wanted a rabbi to do the chuppah.

Nehemia: Oh, okay. But he didn’t know anything about Judaism is what you’re saying?

Gerald: Exactly.

Nehemia: Except that he was Jewish. [laughing]

Gerald: Except for everything that was mystical and wonderful. He said, “The Buddhists said that, and the Tibetans said that,” and he didn’t realize it was…

Nehemia: What I want to get to is the twins. There is that scene in Cosmos where the one twin is waiting and the other goes at the speed of light and comes back and the first twin is old. Does that have something to do with what you were describing, or is that completely not related?

Gerald: It’s not related, but I talk about… not Carl Sagan, but in Genesis and the Big Bang, because it actually was done. There was an experiment done with clocks, not with people. It happens with people also, but…

Nehemia: And it wasn’t that the twin was an old man, it was a clock and it was milliseconds or something, right? [laughing]

Gerald: Yeah. But if you could measure that in human time, it’s also the same. The twin comes back a different age. But we can’t take…

Nehemia: Isn’t that the whole thing with the GPS system, and they have to constantly tweak it?

Gerald: Absolutely. Look, in my time, going back during the Cold War era, we always had the Strategic Air Command in the air. Those clocks had to be replaced with others. The planes were there for two weeks at a time, being refueled - or a week at a time - then they would come down, and a new plane would go up. Those clocks had to be reset all the time.

Nehemia: Wow. And so basically what that shows is that there are different perceptions of time within the physical universe.

Gerald: That’s true.

Nehemia: That’s an issue of physics, not theology or doctrine or religion.

Gerald: It’s a reality.

Nehemia: It’s a reality of physics.

Gerald: And every astronomer knows it. Even if you say, “What else is new?” We’ve been saying that for over 200 years, 150 years.

Nehemia: All right. I appreciate you talking about this. Let me just get to a couple more things before we wrap it up. One of the things that we had talked about before the recording – and I’ve got to bring this, because this is some really powerful stuff – you were talking about God being dynamic in the universe, and our relationship with God, and you mentioned something about the spies and the hornets. Can you talk about that real quick?

Gerald: Yeah, “I will be that which I will be.”

Nehemia: We talked about that in the last episode. We’re doing two episodes, because there’s so much to talk about. So guys, go into the archives and listen to the previous episode with Dr. Schroeder. But the “Ehiyeh asher ehiyeh, I am that which I am,” or in the Hebrew, “I will be that which I will be,” you tied that into the spies who went to spy out the land in Egypt… Sorry, they went from the desert to the land of Canaan, and the hornets, and the beasts of the field.

Gerald: It’s an example of how God runs the world. “I will be that which I will be,” means it’s a dynamic God. It’s not a pigeon-hole God. An example of this would be of how God runs the world. Gods wants partnership. In fact, in God According to God, what you can pull out of that is, doctors want patsies. “Oh, yes. God wants us around to heal the land, to fix the land. We’re partners with God.” We’re going into what my wife calls “pre-state Israel,” Canaan. We’re going back…

Nehemia: 3,000 years ago or so, 3,500 years ago.

Gerald: Yeah, we’re going to pre-state Israel, 3,500 years ago, and it’s before the 40 years in the desert. Of course, just before we mess up, the spies go in. They come back and they say, “Wow, the land is great. It’s the greatest land. But there are giants in there, so let’s go back.”

I’m getting off the point. So, we’re going to go in but God says, “There is danger ahead, so I’m going to send in the hornets to drive out the snipers, to drive out the enemy.” But thank God, He says the most amazing thing. “But I’m not going to drive them out all at once, lest the beasts of the field multiply.” God says it in Deuteronomy, and He says it in Exodus also. “I’m not going to drive them out all at once.”

What’s going on here? If God could send the hornets in to drive out the enemy, why can’t God control the beasts of the field? Well, because lions are bigger than hornets, so God can’t control lions… Obviously not!

Nehemia: That’s ridiculous, right.

Gerald: Ridiculous. The fact is, God is saying, “I’ll give you a hand. I’ll get this system going. You’ve got to keep it going. I’ll drive out most of them, but I won’t drive them out all at once. That’s for you to do.” Because God could have just said, “I’ll drive them out all at once. I’ll knock out the beasts of the field. Go and take the land.” No, Joshua had to conquer the land. We are partners with God in doing this job, and it’s a pain in the neck, because if God runs the show altogether, we could just sit back with our feet up on the desk drinking cappuccinos.

Nehemia: And so basically the Jewish perspective – and I’ve said this before, and I think this is definitely the Tanakh perspective – is that mankind, we’ve got to do our share. God’s going to do His share, but we can’t just sit back with pacifism or fatalism and say, “Well, that’s just how it is. Nothing I can do about it. I’m not going to do anything about it, because there’s nothing I can do about it.” Rather, we have to do everything that we can do, and God will do what He has to do. You’re saying you learn that from the spies and the hornets. That’s a great teaching, I like that.

Gerald: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin once said… Maybe that was him also, “We should pray as if everything counts on God and act as if everything counts on us.”

Nehemia: I like that. That ties into another episode we did. You weren’t in it, but I did an interview with someone from New York University about the origin of sin. And one of the things she was saying is, “In the Dead Sea Scrolls, whenever they’re giving instruction, it’s all on you. But when you’re praying to God, you’re praying, ‘God, I can’t do this myself. I need You to do it for me.’” [laughing] So it’s very interesting. That goes back to the Dead Sea Scrolls, at least, and I think it’s probably in the Tanakh, as well. We can have a whole talk about that.

One more thing I want to talk about, and then we’ll wrap it up, just real quick - I want to talk about evolution. Can we talk about evolution?

Gerald: Okay. I’m going to…

Nehemia: And I just want to back up – you do believe there are six 24-hour days, but the perception of those days, one perception is 14 billion years, and one perception is 6 days. And there’s a whole science of math and nuclear physics…

Gerald: And they both happened at the same time.

Nehemia: And they both happened, but they’re perceived in different ways. But now let’s talk about evolution. And this is the question for a lot of people that I speak to. They say, “I don’t care if there were dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But did God take dirt and blow into it the nishmat chaim, the neshama, the spirit of life, into Adam, into the first man? That’s really what it comes down to for a lot of people. If He didn’t, then none of this matters. We don’t have a soul.

Gerald: I think we learn from the text, but again using ancient commentary, that life developed from the simple to the complex via mutations. The problem with the word “evolution” is that it includes the idea that the mutations were random. That is intrinsic in the meaning that is used in American English. And I’m going to throw this in - if any one of you people are lawyers, good, high-powered lawyers, let’s take it together to the federal courts, and textbooks will have to put in that if they’re using the word “evolution”, we do not know if the mutations are random or not. There are no data that support that the mutations are random.

The mutations that made some lions stronger and some weaker did happen. The question is, what drove those mutations? And when people use the word “evolution” and say that the mutations were random, that is a theological statement, and according to the federal law of the United States, it is forbidden to teach theology. I’m probably not going to get it all in, but I want to get this in.

Nehemia: No, please. Sure.

Gerald: I hope someone hears this, because I’ll be happy to go with them.

Nehemia: You’ll testify before Congress about this?

Gerald: I’ll bring in the science understanding of it, because that’s what the other lawyers didn’t have back in Pennsylvania about 20 years ago, that the word “evolution” as used in American science is that random mutations make changes, and in some lions it’s strong, some weak, some cheetahs are fast, some cheetahs… But the key is on “random”.

The word “random” in random mutations is a theological statement. It says that God is not active. It’s a negative theological statement that’s as strong as saying, “God is active,” and it’s forbidden in science classrooms in the United States of America. It should be that in every textbook that if they’re going to use the word “evolution” they have to put a sticker in there or make it clear in the text that we do not know if the mutations were random or designed.

Nehemia: So that’s what you’re basically saying - you believe there’s some sort of development of species, but the mutations that bring about that development is divine intervention. Is that what you’re saying?

Gerald: My feeling is that you can’t explain it mathematically by random reactions, and most scientists, even biologists, say it that it can’t but it did happen, it must be random. I think we can take this to the Supreme Court and actually win the case, where you have to say that we don’t do random.

My understanding is life developed from the simple to the complex. I have no question about that. That’s why there’s the six days of Genesis flowing through. You don’t start out with people. You start out with life in the waters, which happens to be correct.

Nehemia: So this is guided development rather than random…

Gerald: Yeah.

Nehemia: …evolution?

Gerald: I think it’s a mixture. If I see how God runs the world, like floods…

Nehemia: There are some things that are random. But overall, there’s a guiding hand of God.

Gerald: God has a goal that may be meandering. One of my students gave me such a good insight - God is always present. God lets His system run itself, and when it passes a certain threshold of being beyond what God wants, God pushes it back. The flood is an example. God pushes it back on line, it meanders some more. God pushes it back on line. So it’s a mixture.

Nehemia: That’s interesting. There’s a great example in archaeology, which is my background. There’s Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which is one of the most amazing things in Jerusalem. People who come here should go to the City of David, go to the Hezekiah’s Tunnel. It’s this S-shaped tunnel that they dug in preparation for the Assyrian invasion, to put the water into the city. What they did is, they came from two different directions, and the difference in height from the two directions is like millimeters… It’s almost nothing. And nobody, to this day, knows how they did it, because they had no survey equipment, it was underground, they’re digging in the dark with oil lamps, and they somehow met in the middle.

We have an ancient Paleo-Hebrew inscription that describes how they met in the middle. But how they got to that point, nobody knows. What’s interesting, though, is that as you go through the tunnel there are what are called “false starts”, where they started digging down in this direction and then they realized, “No, it’s not that way,” and they corrected. And somehow they ended up with a perfect S where they met in the middle. And that reminds me of what you’re saying here - that God is there. I believe that was the hand of God, because in the Book of Isaiah He tells them, “Don’t surrender to the Assyrians.” “Okay, we’re not going to surrender to the Assyrians. What do we do? We’d better make preparations.” And they dug that tunnel and they build the broad wall, and different things. That’s pretty cool.

So you’re saying that in science, you believe there’s a similar thing, where there’s a certain amount of randomness, but then it’s the guiding hand of God that’s guiding evolution, or what you call, “development” along. Is that right?

Gerald: Yeah, because development is a neutral term. And I think life did develop from the simple to the complex and that it was a flow. It’s not my opinion, but from Maimonides and the Guide for the Perplexed…

Nehemia: 1190.

Gerald: 1190, before people are digging up the fossils, and the Talmud, 1,800 years ago, in the year 200, or 300, it was written down in three stages, the year 200 and 400. It talks about beings – beings that had the same…

Nehemia: The Talmud says this?

Gerald: Yes.

Nehemia: Or Maimonides says it?

Gerald: No, Maimonides brings it from the Talmud. He doesn’t invent it.

Nehemia: Okay, that’s there were beings…?

Gerald: Beings – I’m using the word “beings” – that had the same shape, and the same intelligence as humans. Get this straight. The same shape…

Nehemia: What?

Gerald: …and the same intelligence as humans, but they lacked the neshama. If you look at Genesis chapter 1, the word “creation” appears only three times. The first sentence of the Bible, “God creates the heavens and the earth.” That gets the system going. Life appears on day three, the word creation does not appear. On day five, animal life appears also on day five, in verse 20 where it says, “God creates a bunch of animals.” We forget what the animals are. Most of the translations are wrong. But the word “creation” appears, “briyah”. It’s different from making and forming.

Nehemia: There’s “yetzar” and “bara,” it’s two different words, okay.

Gerald: Only God does creation.

Nehemia: So what’s the third one?

Gerald: The third one is verse 27, God creates the “Adam”, thank you, Peggy Ketz (p. 214 The Science of God). Why? God doesn’t create Adam. God creates “the Adam”, the English misses it totally. In verse 26…

Nehemia: What’s the sense of that?

Gerald: In verse 26 God says, God says, “Let’s make Adam,” but in verse 27 God creates “the Adam”.

Nehemia: Which is…?

Gerald: The neshama. All of ancient commentaries say there was only physical creation. I want to make that clear. All of ancient commentary says there was one physical creation, Genesis chapter 1 verse 1. So what about Genesis chapter 1 verse 20 when God creates the animals? It can’t be a physical creation, Nehemia. So it’s not physical, it must be…

Nehemia: Metaphysical.

Gerald: It must be metaphysical.

Nehemia: He whispered the answer, okay. I think they heard that, too. [laughing]

Gerald: It must be metaphysical. Metaphysical, the nefesh, the soul of animal life. It gives them a level of choice, different from plants.

Nehemia: Ah… So He created some kind of sentient being, a dog that knew it was a dog - or whatever it was - or a slug or whatever, coming out... But it had some kind of consciousness is what you’re saying?

Gerald: Yeah, and choices.

Nehemia: Then for “ha Adam”, which you’re saying “the Adam”, then He created for him a neshama. What is neshama, for those who don’t know Hebrew?

Gerald: Neshama will be the soul of humanity. I think the neshama knows what Jesus said was the most important sentence in the world.

Nehemia: What’s that, you’re quoting Jesus? [laughing] Everybody, slow down. An Orthodox Jew quoting Jesus.

Gerald: Because Jesus is quoting an Orthodox Jew, namely Jesus himself. Because the central statement – as my wife, Barbara Sofer’s, a great writer – says it’s the Jewish pledge of allegiance. “Hear O’Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Deuteronomy chapter 6 verse 4. When the Disciples ask Jesus, it’s in Mark and Matthew, it’s the most important sentence ever made. Jesus says the following. “Hear O’Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”

Nehemia: And that’s the Shema. “Shema Yisroel

Gerald: Hashem Eloheinu, Hashem Echad. The Lord our God…”

Nehemia: Hashem Echad… okay.

Gerald: “The Lord is One.” Jesus quotes it, but Jesus was Jewish, so it’s not surprising. So that’s what the neshama knows. The neshama in Genesis…

Nehemia: The soul. It’s not just the Jewish soul…

Gerald: No, God-forbid!

Nehemia: The human soul, just to be clear

Gerald: The human soul!

Nehemia: That every descendent of Adam had. And the seven billion humans today, you’re saying those seven billion humans, they all have this neshama.

Gerald: But I want to make it clear - Maimonides talks about these beings in the Talmud also. But Maimonides being more modern and a doctor, he’s…

Nehemia: It’s the 12th century, yeah. [laughing]

Gerald: He’s doesn’t mince words. These beings were humans? No, they were beings that had the same shape and the same intelligence as humans, the same height, but they weren’t Neanderthal. They had high…

Nehemia: They were Homo sapien sapiens.

Gerald: Exactly. There’s a Rabbi Sturman who said it perfectly. “We are Homo sapiens sapiens monotheistiums,” if you want to have the correct word for that. That would be the neshama. That’s the difference.

Nehemia: So that neshama, that’s soul, gives us the ability to recognize that the Lord is our God and the Lord is One, what it says in Deuteronomy. As you said, what Jesus said in…

Gerald: In Mark.

Nehemia: And what every Jew today - I know certainly in my upbringing, we were always taught the last words that should be spoken upon your lips before you die is the Shema. My father, the “Shema Yisroel, Hear O’Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One,” I know my father passed away a few years back. One of the things my sister who was with him shortly before, she said the Shema with him, and that was for our family, a very deep and moving thing. That this is something that’s in the soul and heart maybe of every human being.

Gerald: And that the soul doesn’t die. I have a whole book I’m writing now about…

Nehemia: Wow, so there’s another book coming out? What’s that going to be called?

Gerald: This is based on neurology. Neurologists have discovered the part of the brain that links to our - I’m not getting in too far, that is a link from our physical body to our metaphysical body. These souls are metaphysical. They’re not physical. You realize, there’s only one physical creation, Genesis chapter 1 verse 1. If the Bible says explicitly, “God created the animals and God created the Adam,” that neshama, that soul. That’s what changed.

Nehemia: Oh, interesting. So you’re saying the second and third time the word “bara” appears, He’s creating something metaphysical, not physical?

Gerald: Absolutely.

Nehemia: And that’s the nefesh of the animal and the neshama of the human being.

Gerald: But I didn’t say that. Nachmanides…

Nehemia: That was said by…

Gerald: Nachmanides.

Nehemia: Nachmanides said that,

Gerald: And Maimonides.

Nehemia: And Maimonides, 800 years ago. Wow.

Gerald: Genesis chapter 2 verse 7 that God takes a lump of dirt, Adam comes from the root of “adamah”. It’s interesting, the animals…

Nehemia: Come on with that! [laughing]

Gerald: The animals are made from the adamah also, but they’re not called “adamah”. I understand Genesis chapter 2 verse 7, which is the controversial issue, God takes a lump... I think that sentence has four billion years of life’s development folded in. Some dirt becomes microbes, more mutations, not random, more mutations develop. They develop, and finally you get to a being that looks just like Nehemia.

Nehemia: But he doesn’t have a neshama yet until God creates one for him.

Gerald: Exactly, and then he becomes… Because the closing lines, the words of chapter 2 verse 7, “vene’efach l’ish veyhei dam lenefesh chaya.” You have to look at the closing lines, “that became a living soul.”

Nehemia: It says here, “Vayitzer Hashem Elohim et hadam afar min ha’adamah, veyipach be’apav nishmat hayim. Veyehi ha’adam lenefesh chaya,” which means…

Gerald: Veyehi ha’adam lefesh…” In the English translation, “Man became a living being.” But the Hebrew, “veheyi ha’adam le…” the “le” sound…

Nehemia: He became.

Gerald: He became to a living being. He became to a living being, and the Lamed, we are told by these ancient commentators, shows a transition from a lesser to a higher. The neshama changed…

Nehemia: Just to be clear - there was a man who existed, he was alive, and you believe he was born to parents, a mother and father.

Gerald: I don’t believe. Maimonides says it, and Nachmanides… they all say it.

Nehemia: Well, there are millions of people who don’t believe it, who believe that that first man… that he himself was dirt that came alive. But you’re saying he was born to parents, but he didn’t have that nefesh chaya yet, that soul…

Gerald: Nor did they - they were animals. They were animals.

Nehemia: …until God created that and gave it to him.

Gerald: They didn’t look like monkeys. They looked like people. Yeah.

Nehemia: Okay, so there were people who looked like people, who didn’t have the soul, and the significance of Adam in Genesis 2:7 becoming a human being is that he was given this soul.

Gerald: Yes.

Nehemia: That’s what you’re saying?

Gerald: We date that by adding up the years, and it comes out to be 5776 is the year at the moment. You should know - in the British Museum, in The Science of God I have two chapters on this. I’ll tell you, and I’m going to say now in the strongest meaning of the word, thank God. Barbara and I were lecturing in England just as The Science of God was going to final editing. We had the afternoon off with no lectures. We were lecturing back-to-back. We do it together, it’s kind of fun, actually. We went to the British Museum. I had no idea about what I’m about to say, until then, and thank God, it got into the book.

I went to the Mesopotamian wing, and there was this section in the Mesopotamian called The Earliest Cities. It describes on the wall, I’m sure you’ve seen, Nehemia, a photograph of the plaque on the wall which tells you what you’re seeing in this entire wing – not a room, a wing.

Nehemia: Of the British Museum, yeah.

Gerald: Science tells us, archeology, that society changed so dramatically 5,500 years ago, that the British Museum… Now remember, the British are very active, and we’re talking about Mesopotamia here - Iran, Iraq of today. It changed so dramatically that the British Museum has an entire section that took place and they date it 5,500 years ago. Does that sound familiar?

Nehemia: Yeah.

Gerald: The neshama changed the world.

Nehemia: So you’re saying there were things that looked like human beings, they had the DNA, maybe, of human beings, but what they lacked was this metaphysical entity which is the neshama, the soul, and that’s what Genesis 2:7 is talking about.

Gerald: And it changed the world. The British Museum talks about before that time, there were no cities. There were settlements.

Nehemia: I know for a lot of people listening this is very controversial, and a lot of people will say, “Oh, no.” For example, there’s a lot of Young Earth creationists that will say, “No, absolutely not.” Every time they find an Australopithecus afarensis or they’ve found other ones recently, that every time they find one of those, those have no DNA connection, or we’re not descended from those. And you’re saying there’s no problem for us to be descended from them, because the part that makes us human is this soul that was given…

Gerald: The neshama.

Nehemia: …in Genesis 2:7, the neshama.

Gerald: No, chapter 1 verse 27, and 2:7, because it’s…

Nehemia: Genesis 1:27 it’s created, and Genesis 2:7 it’s actually blown into his nose.

Gerald: And it changed the world. It changed the world.

Nehemia: I want you to bring one last story - and then we really will end this – and that’s what you were telling me about, then I’ll close the book… Because you gave this whole, elaborate explanation about the perception of days, and we mentioned Young Earth Creationists. You were telling me about at Young Earth Creationist that you met, a man named Zola Levitt, who was a very ardent Young Earth Creationist. He read your book, and what happened?

Gerald: It was amazing. A project I…

Nehemia: You’ve been on his show. I’ve been on his show as well. He passed away in, I think, 2005 or something.

Gerald: Yeah, about a decade ago.

Nehemia: So what happened to Zola Levitt when he…

Gerald: I was on his show many, many times. Zola read the book and I get this phone call.

Nehemia: This is Genesis and the Big Bang?

Gerald: The first book, Genesis. That was the only book out at the time. This man tells me he’s the facilitator.

Nehemia: He’s the organizer, or whatever, or the coordinator, okay.

Gerald: In Israel. I apologize for so much for not remembering, because I met him many times. He says, “Zola would like to meet with you.” He was leaving that night. We set up two chairs outside the wall by Jaffa Gate. As you know, there’s…

Nehemia: A big green area.

Gerald: Yeah. We sat facing each other. They filmed it. He said, “I stayed up all last night reading your book. It changed me,” he said. “I’ve always believed that there’s a Young Earth. I’ve read this and I realize now that completely consistent with the Biblical text is a universe that from one perspective is young, and from our perspective and reality, is old. That is, there is an ancient…”

Nehemia: Well, they’re both reality, they’re just different perspectives.

Gerald: Exactly. The biblical perspective. And that’s why Bible starts with Adam. So I was really impressed by the fact that here was a person, I don’t know what’s his viewing audience, but it was a very large audience, and he was willing to say…

Nehemia: “I was wrong.”

Gerald: Yeah, “That I was wrong.”

Nehemia: That’s pretty rare. I know in the Jewish tradition, we have this concept that if you admit you’re wrong, that’s actually a very brave thing to do, and it’s an honorable thing. But I know for a lot of people coming from different perspectives they can never admit that they’re wrong, because they’ve got to have all the answers!

One of the things I learned many, many years ago is somebody who thinks he has all the answers probably doesn’t know too much. [laughing]

Gerald: Yeah. Just to tell you about Adam. I think Genesis 2 chapter 7 is saying it’s a development of life and then the neshama’s put in. That’s the lead-up sentence to the middle of the sentence where it says God puts it in. So, when you go to the museum – it’s important now, what I say – when you go to the museum or you read it in an anthropology textbook, and you see an exhibit, and there are people sitting around the fire, they’re inventing fire 10,000 years ago, and pottery 10,000 years ago, and farming 10,000 years ago, and compare it to 50,000 years ago. The museum 100% correct, the anthropology text books are 100% correct, by their definition of a person. By their definition of a person.

Their definition of a person is a being that looks like you, and looks like me, has your brains and my brains. The Bible has a slightly different perspective. The Bible says, “A person is a being that looks like you and looks like me, has your brains and my brains. It has a neshama.”

Nehemia: Wow. And you’re saying that this isn’t something you just cooked up to try to explain away the evidence. Maimonides said this and the Talmud says this before anybody dug up an Australopithecus and a Homo habilis. That’s very interesting. That’s a lot to think about, and I’m going to have to read this book, Genesis and the Big Bang.

I learned something from Larry King. He says, “He never reads the book before the interview, because then he doesn’t discover what’s going on.” He feels there should be discovery during the interview. And so I haven’t read your book, I’ll admit that. I have seen a lot of your lectures online. I’m going to go read the book, because right now, I’ll be honest with you, Dr. Schroeder, this is Hebrew Voices, and we hear lots of different perspectives, and we honor and respect them. I still, deep in my heart… I just believe it’s six 24-hour days.

Gerald: You’re right, it is six 24-hours days.

Nehemia: I know. And I understand what you’re saying… I don’t understand what you’re saying, I’ll be totally honest. I hear what you’re saying about the physics, and I know it’s beyond my comprehension, because I’m not good at math, and stuff like that, but to me, what I struggle with really is, there was a clump of dirt that God took in His hand – I don’t know if it was literal hand – but He took in His hand and He made that into the man. And you’re saying that happened, but with intermediaries, and descendants. And deep in my heart, I believe that it was that actual man made from the dirt.

But this is the beauty of what I’m trying to do, I think, is share Hebrew Voices. You have a different perspective, and you’re obviously a lot smarter than me when it comes to physics, and nuclear stuff, and certainly mathematics. And so I want people to go out there and read these books and hear different perspectives. Because a lot of people out there will say, “Well, it’s either Young Earth Creationism, six 24-hour days, and Satan planted the dinosaur bones to deceive us. It’s either that, or God doesn’t exist.”

And I’m saying, “You know what? There are other possibilities out there.” And we should respect people who have different possibilities. I’ve read some of the criticisms of what you say, and some people are saying, “You’re betraying the idea of six 24-hour days.” You know what? He’s another Hebrew Voice. Here’s a man who fought for the State of Israel, who loves Israel, who’s dedicated his life to living in this country and building this country, and I saw his grandson before, who is watching the minyans. He’s raising a family in this country and loves the Jewish people and the God of Israel.

This isn’t some kind of compromise – that’s the word they use, “compromise”. This isn’t a compromise. He’s a physicist who knows a lot more about physics than we do. And you can agree with him or disagree with him but have some respect for him. He’s not trying to undermine Scripture. On the contrary, he spends his days, every Sunday and Monday in the Old City, you were telling me you give this lecture and you teach to anybody who will walk in who wants to hear the truth about Scripture and understand it from the perspective of science.

And there is a deep-rooted approach in Judaism, going back really to the time of Maimonides, and maybe a lot before that, of trying to say that you really can’t understand the nature of God without understanding science, and I think that’s what Dr. Schroeder’s doing, and I have a lot of respect for him. And I’m really honored that you did this interview with me.

Gerald: Everyone that’s listening, and Nehemia also, you are more than welcome to come to my session.

Nehemia: I’m going to take you up on that invitation.

Gerald: Dress any way you feel comfortable, and just come and join the group.

Nehemia: Thank you very much. And he’s Dr. Gerald Schroeder, there will be links in the show notes on the website, nehemiaswall.com. Thank you, guys, for listening. Shalom.

This episode of Hebrew Voices was sponsored by Rocky and Cindy in New York. Thank you. Todah.

You have been listening to Hebrew Voices with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon’s Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

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A Physicist on the Nature of God

Show Notes:

Dr. Gerald Schroeder earned his PhD degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in two fields: Earth Sciences and Physics. Schroeder served for five years on the staff of the MIT Department of Physics. In 1971, he moved to Israel where he joined the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Volcani Research Institute, while also having a laboratory at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In addition to his current work in radiation control, he teaches at Aish HaTorah College of Jewish Studies, is the author of five bestselling books, and he lectures on the extraordinary confluence of modern science and ancient Biblical commentary.

Nachmanides Commentary on Genesis 1:1
משיהיה יש, ייתפש בו זמן - misheyihyeh yesh, yitafes bo z'man "from when there is matter, time takes hold of it."

The Age of the Universe by Dr. Gerald Schroeder

Midrash Tanchuma

Verses Mentioned:

Schroeder-Genesis-and-the-Big-Bang Schroeder-Genesis-One Schroeder-God-According-to-God Schroeder-Hidden-Face-of-God Schroeder-Science-of-God


  • Michael Gibson says:

    Blessed are you Nehemia, I feel I can hear the sound of scales falling to the ground, I know I am seeing if not better then surely from a better perspective.If people can change their context maybe they can discard their contacts…..eewww maybe I should have signed foo sooner.Shalom

  • Paulette Gray says:

    The word Day has many meanings all revolving around a specific period of time

  • Walter Schwenk says:

    Schroeder’s books have done wonders to let the science inclined believe in the bible, and show the bible inclined how science supports their book. You can get all 4 books used at thriftbooks.com for less the 20 us $$. go for it.